Wayne Alpern is reviewed by Jazz Blues Magazine with Skeleton

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The publicity for composer-arranger Wayne Alpern
states that he “is a New York City composer, arranger,
and scholar who integrates popular and jazz idioms
with classical techniques and repertoire to create a
sophisticated contemporary style of cross-genre, or
even post-genre music. … Alpern’s innovative compositions,
recompositions, and rearrangements have
been performed and recorded by distinguished artists
from diverse musical traditions.”
Alpern describes “Skeleton” as “a new dance of
old bones, songs of ourselves.” Further, he writes, “I
studied classical music, but grew up with Motown and
played in rock bands. That’s a resourceful (and characteristically
American) aesthetic dialectic. I gradually
came to view popular styles, conventions and songs
as treasures of aural archeology, found objects, musical
tissue, vehicles for creative transformation to be
re-purposed and revived as original art through the
redemptive act of arrangement, rearrangement or recomposition
at a higher level of synthesis.”
For this recording, he assembled, to play his arrangements,
a brass ensemble with shifting personnel
and sometimes a rhythm section. There is one tune by
Alpern, along with compositions from Charlie Parker,
Dave Brubeck, Jessie J, Richard Rogers, Joe Zawinul,
Jerome Kern, Donald Fagen, Clifford Brown, and others.
On the opening selection, singer-songwriter Jessie
J’s “Domino,” two trumpets, two trombones, bass,
and drums, deliver a fetching, lyrical performance
highlighted by Michael Davis’s trombone solo. Charlie
Parker’s “Anthropology” is performed at a relaxed
pace by a trombone quintet and drums with various
members, including James Rogers on bass trombone,
Page Fourteen March • April 2020 • Issue 389
soloing. The intricate arrangement allows for fascinating
interplay between the players.
Billy Test’s piano introduces a swing Brubeck’s
“Take 5,” with David Smith’s heated trumpet. Mike
Boschen’s euphonic trombone is spotlighted on a trombone
quintet rendition of “Blue Moon.” A trombone trio
and full rhythm section interpret Joe Zawinul’s classic
“Mercy Mercy Mercy,” with Jason Jackson taking the
solo while pianist Billy Test lays down bluesy chords
and a brief solo. Sam Hoyt’s fluegelhorn shines on
Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” while
Alpern’s “Blue Bones” sounds like a Kurt Weill composition
with four trombones prancing around. Bassist
Evan Gregor and drummer Josh Bailey complement
the playful spirit of the performance.
A quartet of trombones (Noah Bless (trb), Matt
McDonald (trb), Nick Grinder (trb), and James Rogers
(btrb)), bass and drums charm us on Jerome Kern’s
“I’m Old Fashioned.” The bass and drums introduce
the same four on Mack Gordon and Harry Warren’s
“At Last,” with Bless soloing. The album incorrectly
attributes the song to Etta James, who had the most
famous recording of this song. These four trombones
also captivate listeners with their rendition of “If I
Only Had a Brain,” from “The Wizard of Oz.” Other
selections include a chamber music-grounded version
of a Handel composition by a trombone quintet and
drums. Billy Test’s bass and Josh Bailey’s drums lay
down a reggae groove for trumpeters Sam Hoyt and
David Smith along with trombonists Michael Davis and
Nick Grinder on David Fagen’s “I.G.Y.” A mellifluous
trombone quartet rendition of Clifford Brown’s “Joy
Spring,” closes this album.
It was such a pleasure to listen to “Skeleton.”
Alpern’s arrangements and the various configurations
brass ensembles have produced a thoroughly enchanting,
irresistible recording. Ron Weinstock

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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